Type: Community Park, 13.7 acres, established 1905.
Entrance Location: Enter from anywhere around park periphery. Parking may be quite difficult. No specific recommendations.
Facilities: Six tennis courts, one basketball court, two soccer fields, a playground, and a clubhouse with public restrooms. 5 tables. Water.
Fee-Hours: No fee. No curfew noted.
Dogs: Good. Large open spaces.
Mission Dolores is a Cinderella story for a sizeable park in the hyper-dense Mission District. This is an area of the city which is so congested and remote from other large parks that a visitor friendly park is immensely important to punctuate the gridiron concrete jungle. Unfortunately, Dolores Park has spent most of its lifetime 'in decline.' It has a history of poor facility maintenance, and drug dealing has kept it from feeling safe, especially after dark. But all of that was finally turned around when in 1998 the Mission Economic Development Association (MEDA) began to focus in earnest on the park. Working with the Friends of Dolores Park, the Dolores Heights Improvement Club, the San Francisco Youth Commission, the San Francisco League of Urban Gardeners, the Neighborhood Parks Council, and the San Francisco Recreation and Park Department, the park has been 'magically' transformed into an excellent, pleasant open space environment. It is one of the most dramatic turnarounds a highly used San Francisco park has ever seen. Therein lies its greatest distinction.
The park is tiered over a moderate slope into distinct hill and flat areas. Concealing groves of grungy trees have been replaced with a sunny park that is completely open with widely spaced palms and other ornamentals, an excellent playground, and lots and lots of open grass. Once ratty lawns are now nicely kept and there are flowers and groundcovers planted all over. New lighting fixtures and an increased police presence support the transition and have virtually eliminated drug dealing in the park.* By day the park is like a utopianistic fairyland. All pretentions of a 'naturalistic' area have been eliminated, which seems appropriate for this park. It is heavily used by people for sunning and is a pleasant place to be.
Best Features: Park is now open and secure feeling to visit during the day. Excellent for sitting in the sun and watching people. Park has a regal, utopian feeling which it didn't before. Excellent park planning. This kind of park transformation is inspiring.
Worst Features: The Mission District is a high density area which is difficult to park in. Borders Mission High School campus which is a rough school.
*For a more in depth history, visit: http://www.sfneighborhoodparks.org/parkhistories/index.html